Jersey City has dropped in an authoritative ranking of park systems in the 100 most populous U.S. cities.
The Trust for Public Land annual ParkScore® index ranked Jersey City 45th, down from 36th last year, owing largely to the fact that spending on parks did not keep pace with population growth reported in the 2020 census. As a result, Jersey City saw its per capita spending on parks fall to $56 per person from $74.
The city did receive high marks for park access, with ninety-eight percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park. But Jersey City’s ParkScore ranking was hurt by the city’s median park size of 0.6 acres, which is below the national ParkScore average of 5.4 acres.
Jersey City’s ranking declined despite the opening of several new parks around the city and Mayor Fulop’s declaration that 2022 would be “the year of open space.”
In February this year, Fulop touted the opening of diminutive Fairmount Park in Bergen-Lafayette. With financing and construction provided by a local developer, the 1.5 acre Coles Park in Downtown’s “Soho West” neighborhood opened in 2021. The administration has pushed for the creation of Courthouse Park near Journal Square once the Hudson County Administrative building is demolished. The much larger, 32-acre, Skyway Park, along the Hackensack River, remains in the planning stages.
Across the river, New York City retained its 10th place position (tied with Boston), boosted by strong marks for park access and park acreage. Like Jersey City, New York’s final ranking was hurt by its small median park size of 1.0 acre. To the west, Newark fell to 58th, compared to last year’s 47th. However, at 0.9 acres, Newark’s median park size was larger than Jersey City’s.
With open space at a premium in Jersey City, proposals from groups backed by Paul Fireman, the owner of Liberty National Golf Club, to build stadiums and a large concert venue in Liberty State Park have drawn the ire of long time park and open space advocates.
According to TPL, new research shows that cities with high ParkScore rankings are healthier places to live. Residents of cities ranked 1-25 on the ParkScore index are nine percent less likely to report poor mental health than are residents of lower ranking cities. Residents of these higher-ranking cities are also 21 percent less likely to be physically inactive.
“Today, parks departments across the country are writing a new playbook to ensure that all residents can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of their neighborhood park” said Diane Regas, President and CEO of TPL.
Racial and economic disparities in American society extend to park access, says TPL. Among all ParkScore cities, neighborhoods where most residents identify as people of color have access to an average of 43 percent less park space than predominately white neighborhoods. Residents in low-income neighborhoods have access to 42 percent less park space than residents in high-income neighborhoods.
To arrive at its rankings, ParkScore looked at five factors: park access, park equity, park acreage, park investment and park amenities. The top five cities, in order, were Washington D.C.; St. Paul, Minnesota; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Irvine, California; and Arlington Virginia.
Featured photo by Jayne Freeman